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Messages - CrystalOfLies

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31
It's made even worse for me; I have a hard time detecting sarcasm, so when I'm proofreading I can't tell if she's being playful or actually critical of him. I want to believe it's the former, but this coupled with a lot of those Japanese reviews complaining about Yuna's cruel nature...

I'm starting to give up with making sense out of all of this as well. I'm like, 'Oh, but this has to have meaning, right? It has to be part of the story, right?' but then I realised how ridiculous and convoluted it all sounds. :P It's starting to become less like a story and more like both Nojima wanting to make Yuna his jerkwad, fanservice waifu; and finding a way to kick Tidus out of the story completely.

32
I actually have exams next week, so I'll probably be busy.

33
I do know that that happens with most of the assertive female characters in JRPGs (heck, look at Chuami), but I feel like it's a... little out-of-place for Yuna's character? She was still pretty kind in X-2.

Maybe this translates to that big rumour that came out with the novella; that Yuna was getting really annoyed at him and just keeps on rejecting his attempts at romance. Especially her response to their nearly drowning at the beginning of this chapter. That was pretty mean-spirited, even for her.

Once all the novella's translated I'm probably going to write a review on it.

34
Chapter 16 up!

I have to say, Yuna's being a bit of a jerk.

35
Chapter 16

---

   They took the path towards the inland and quickly reached a fork. If they were in Besaid, the right path would lead them to the ruins. But they struggled with a river they could have only crossed by swimming. The two young ones considered having spent enough time in water today and decided to turn around. They climbed a steep slope, and then they took the direction of the waterfalls' path. Thirsty, they were dreaming of the freshwater falling from the cliff.

   “It really does looks like Besaid...” Tidus noticed.

   “That's right. Yet, something is strange. I can see remnants of human occupation, but they evoke a people different from ours.”

   She stopped to examine a stone statue on the verge. It reached their knees and represented a man. But because of time and elements, the details had faded and the back had disappeared.

   “He has a beard and a staff. It's an old man,” Yuna said.

   “A High Summoner?” Tidus suggested.

   The young woman shook her head, as she was not convinced. They stood before the statue for a few moments, but did not discover anything about it. They set off and felt soon the atmosphere culling off. The rumble of the water finally reached them. They rushed forward at the double, while betting on the one who would get there first.

   The waterfall's path reached a cliff, in a place where a river was throwing itself into the void. The air was always fresh here, even in the middle of the hottest day. Of course, the description matched Besaid's one. But this unknown island did not disappoint them.

Under the thin rain, Yuna raised her face and opened her mouth. Tidus imitated her.

   “It feels so good!” the young woman rejoiced.

   The fresh water was dissipating the burning sensation on her entire body.

   “I feel like a new person,” her partner went further.

   “Yes...”

   “You think...” Tidus started, hesitant. “You think we've drowned?”

   “So we would be...”

   “Dead.”

   “I don't know, I never died,” Yuna answered.

   Tidus burst out laughing. Yet, the young girl had not wanted to mess around. A lot of factors allowed living beings to remain after their death.

   She was thinking about "Unsents" like Auron; the legendary guardian who, two years earlier, had guided them during their journey. Seymour and the Great Maester Mika had chosen this path too. Someone greatly attached to this world could continue to lead a life almost unchanged, and nobody would ever notice otherwise.

   Fayth, indispensable for every summoning, spent eternity between life and death. Aeons, deceased who appear in the hereafter, much like a good half of monsters; and even Sin, could be considered as "incarnate spirits". Death had not stopped.

   When the young girl finished her explanation, Tidus appeared to shiver:

   “I prefer not to think about all of this. Let's say we're really alive, and let's move on to something else!”

   “It's you who broached the subject, but fine. What do you want to talk about?”

   “For example, what about what you remember? Do you remember the shark, and our swimming?”

   “Yes. I've seen the island, far away, and I've hoped it was Besaid. Then, I've swallowed water, twice. I've spitted and I've wanted to vomit. I've been in pain for a moment, and then... nothing else.”

   Tidus was looking at her, visibly tense. She smiled at him:

   “I've woken up on the beach. I don't know what happened between these two moments.”

   He lowered his eyes and she wondered what he was thinking. When he raised his head, his face was serious.

   “I want to tell you something important: don't ever give up. Don't sacrifice yourself for my sake. Living without you, I don't want that.”

   “I have something to tell you too.”

   Her hands on her hips, she stared at him:

   “It wasn't easy. It never was. But you saved me so many times in the past and I don't want to call you for help anymore. I lived without you, and I don't want this to happen again. Well, I don't know what I'll do if it happens once again, but I'm sure of something: I refuse to request help from someone who disdains mine.”

   “What are you talking about?”

   “In the water, you were exhausted. And in the end, both of us drowned.”

   “I'm sorry.”

   “It will take some time for me to forgive you.”

   She shook her head so hard that her wet hairs fluttered around her. Then she left in the direction of the village - assuming they were in Besaid. Tidus followed in her steps whilst whispering new apologies.

   Yuna told him what was weighing on her, now she was feeling better.

   “And you, what do you remember?” she asked him.

   “I had the impression that my father had come to save us. He was huge!”

   He spread his arms to illustrate his words.

   “Maybe was it a hallucination,” he continued. “Anyway, we were very lucky.”

   For sure they were very fortunate. She decided to be grateful, without trying to know more about this. Two years earlier, she would have decided in a gift of Yevon.

   “But this sensation, the fact that it's impossible for us to say if it's real or imaginary...” Tidus continued. “I had the impression I was taken back two years, when Sin took me here.”

   She did not answer. After a few quiet moments, he started to talk more loudly:

   “What if it was the same thing right now? As if we were in Besaid, but from an otherworld?”

   “I don't know...”

   “It's an otherworld, I'm sure it is!” he repeated.

   Why not? After all, he had already witnessed a similar situation, and it had taken him some time to understand it.

   “In this case, can we go back home?”

   The question seemed natural for her, but surprise was written on Tidus' face. They were not in the same state of mind apparently.

   “I'm cold, let's move!” she declared joyfully, before setting off.

   If they were in Besaid the village should not be too far. They just had to go through the ruins' path and come back down on the other side.

   She did not know if Tidus was right, but his theory had the advantage to clarify a muddled situation.

   They were walking in silence. Yuna would have wanted to comment on the characteristics of the landscape, but Tidus was staying several steps behind, as if he was upset. He had had to be delighted to be with her in this world. Not forever, of course, but until they find a way to return home. They could explore the island, exchange caresses and kisses. He did not think about those who were worried about them. He was not preoccupied with this.

   ‘I thought he knew me better than that... I am always concerned about others.’

   “Look Yuna, it's amazing!” he suddenly exclaimed, lively.

   She turned around, but he was showing a spot above her head. She turned around once again and discovered a sparkling orange tower.

   “It's so bright... it looks like a brand new one!”

 They were standing on the ruins' path. Yet, the construction in front of them could have been painted the day before.

   With a cry of surprise, Tidus rushed towards the foot of the structure.

   “That's from where Kimahri jumped!”

   He was right. It was indeed the same place. But yet...

   “Oh Yuna, it's working!”

   He beckoned to her, and she complied. Closely, we could indeed hear a slight whirring.

   “I wonder what it's used for...” she whispered.

   He shrugged to show his ignorance.

   “What about the village?” he said suddenly.

   He left at the double in the direction of it and she hurried behind him.

   Tidus was shuffling, waiting for Yuna.

   In Besaid, the pass where he had stopped overhung the village. A stele designed to protect travellers was supposed to be rising at the edge of the path.

   Yuna caught up with her partner and lowered her eyes. The village was not there, but   everything else here matched her memories.

   “Come over here!” he said.

   He was examining a stone statue that rose in place of the stele. It was depicting a young man, life-size, sitting on a pedestal. Even if its details had faded through time, the figure was still recognizable. The man who was represented had rather thin wrists and ankles and...

   “A chest!” Tidus noticed.

   “It's a girl.”

   “Her hands have disappeared, but I think she's praying, like this...”

   He turned talk into action. He guessed right. Yuna approached the statue in order to examine it closely.

   “She has wings,” Tidus said, now standing behind the statue. “And look, there's an inscription on the base.”

   Yuna came beside him.

   “Let's see... Luchera,” the young man continued. Maybe the name of the model who posed for this work?”

   “Probably. I wonder who she was.”

   “If people have erected a statue, she must have been famous,” Tidus noticed. “On the island, and elsewhere. But I don't know anything about Spira's history, so...”

   Yuna was more educated than him about this point, but the name "Luchera" did not ring a bell.

   “Look!”

   He was pointing at the place where the village should have been.

   "It must be what Luchera is looking at. And she's praying. That means there's something down there.”

   From where they were standing, they could only see a forest.


*

   As Yuna guessed, they did not find anything special where the village should have been standing. Hair grass and dense trees constituted a forest typical of the southern islands, rustling with familiar insects.

   “It's the same island, yet different... I think you're right, Tidus.”

   “We must return to your world,” Tidus answered with a serious voice.

   “Why?”

   “For a thousand years, machines have been forbidden by Yevon's teachings, right? However, we heard the tower working. The village doesn't exist, but the same goes for the shrine. What if Yevon's teachings had not reached it? Not at that time, at least.”

   She nodded slowly.

   “War was raging before the precepts, right?”

   “Yes.”

   “Rikku told me about Shuyin and Lenne. I wonder if we're in their time. So we’re a thousand years back in time.”

   “Hmm...”

   “I don't ever want to find myself in the middle of fights. I heard say that summoners were sent to the front.”

   “Ah...”

   Since he had started to set out his theory, she was only answering with monosyllables. She was not able to think. His words were frightening her, because he was most probably right.”

   “Don't worry. There must be a way to return home.”

   “Are you sure about that?”

   If there was a way to return, she wanted to know it. Maybe would it manage to appease her anxiety?

   “If we can pass in one direction, we can do the same in another. Like Sin. It picked me up from Zanarkand and has taken me in your world, same goes for Auron. That must be why I saw my father before our arrival. He wanted me to understand that we could do the same thing in the other direction.”

   Yuna thought his logic was a bit fragile, but she was grateful towards him because he was trying to do his best to reassure her.

   “Thanks, that's kind of you...”

   He appeared to be relieved when he saw her accepting his reasoning.

   “So let's go!” he said.

   “Where?

   “Well, we're going to explore the island to find a way to return home.”

   One of the vaguest objectives... but she could not find anything better. Hence she followed in his footsteps.

*

   They were climbing back up the pass when Yuna let out a cry of exclamation.

   “What's wrong?”

   “This path, what is it? Where does it lead, since the village doesn't exist? Lots of people must have passed through to shape it!”

   “I hadn't thought of that... It could just have been some rambler? The place is kind of pretty.”

   “You think so?”

   “I don't know, it was just an idea.”

   He may be right once again...

   “Oh!” Tidus exclaimed.

   He hurried into the hair grass.

   “Come over here!”

   He had found another statue representing an old man, which had preserved more details than the previous one – this area was certainly safer against the elements.

   “He has a staff,” Tidus noticed.

   “And a bag on his back.”

   “He reminds me of O'aka!” he said while laughing.

   She imitated him. O'aka XXIII was a merchant they had met during their journey in Spira. People could see him in a lot of places and he devoted himself to keep his business running.

   “Maybe it's his island?” Tidus continued. After all, he was the twenty-third... look at his staff!”

   “It's not the same as the one on the other statue,” Yuna noticed.

   “Yes, this part, there...”

   He was pointing at a little horizontal bar, near the hand of the wrinkly. On one side a beak was engraved, and on the other a big cat tail.

   “This beak...” Tidus began.

   He followed the drawing with his finger before pointing at the direction indicated by the bar. Yuna only saw a clump of trees with big trunks – certainly centenarian. Tidus rushed towards them in order to examine them.

   “Everything seems right, but I wonder what the meaning of these symbols is.”

   Yuna looked around her. The copse in question was no different from the other ones. She cast her eyes over the statue again, and tried to remember the one they had found earlier.

   “Stay here, I'm going to make sure of something, I'll be back!”

   She rushed forwards on the path, in the direction of the waterfalls.

   “Where are you going?”

   “To find O'aka!”

   They passed the statue of Luchera and took the road for the ruins again.

   The first statue designing the old man looked like the one they had found near the forest.

   “They took the same model and slightly modified his posing,” Yuna concluded.

   “But isn't it O'aka?”

   “No. And we may never know who it is. But look, there, the beak...”

   It appeared that it was indicating the direction of the second statue, near the forest.

   “Let's go back and see!” she shouted.

   And she left in all haste, abandoning a taken-aback Tidus.

   “I didn't know you were so impatient, he said when he caught up with her.

   “I've spent too much time waiting.”

   “I only came back yesterday… You could be gentler with me.”

   “I would like to, but you spend your days complaining!”

   “Fine, I didn't say anything…”

36
All right! I can't wait until we get to the point with the blitzball bomb!

37
Chapter 15
---

   Yuna woke up on a beach, Tidus beside her. Lying on her back, she was contemplating the sky. The light was strong, the sun at its zenith. They had not fainted for a long time. A slight noise made her head spin: Tidus' mouth was open and a little crab was trying to enter it. She got rid of it then stood up slowly. Thereafter, she caught hold of the young man under her shoulders and started to drag him to a shady place. She was moving backwards step by step, while encouraging herself in an undertone.

   The heels of the young man were digging two little furrows in the sand.

   Yuna was watching in turns these marks which extended as far as the sea, the beach behind her and, beyond, the trees and their shade. Without being discouraged, she kept hauling him.

   Her back was in pain and the sun was burning her skin.

   If only I had still my clothes!

   She remembered vaguely having removed them...

   Tidus moved:

   “Ouch...”

   Yuna stopped immediately.

   “Are you hurt somewhere?”

   “Yes, under my shoulders. It's you who's hurting me.”

   She let go of him:

   “Is that so? In that case, you'll manage everything by yourself!”

   “I'm not complaining. If I'm in pain, then I'm alive. Can you keep hauling me?”

   “My waist is killing me.”

   “What a granny...”

   She let herself fall onto the sand, close to him.

   “May I, young man? I'm too old for this kind of stuff...”

   The phrase "a gift of Yevon" crossed her mind, but she remained silent. She used it less often from now on, but it was difficult to get out of a habit learned during her childhood.

   “Your shoulders must be suffering," Tidus noticed with compassion.

   She nodded to confirm it.

   If he was like she remembered, he was going to go on with an optimistic declaration.

   “But a tanned skin is very pretty!”

   She laughed.

   “Indeed, and Rikku is a relevant example for this. But me, I'm burning, and that's all. Without cream or sphere, I run the risk to end up grilled!”

   “Let's get ourselves in the shade then.”

   “That's what I was doing, but an uncooperative person stopped me.”

   Tidus burst out laughing. Yuna ran her hand over her red shoulder.

   “That's great. "If I'm in pain, then I'm alive", isn't it?”

   “I know a better way to make sure of that...”

   He leaned over Yuna, who moved back.

   “Hold on, young man!”

   “Really? We're in the clear, don't you think that's a cause for celebration?”

   He came close to her once again, his lips deformed in an exaggerated pout. Yuna giggled and pushed him away with a finger.

   “Someone may be observing us! Look at this orange tower, it's like in Besaid.”

   Tidus ceased to mess around and scrutinized the surroundings. He was showing the beginning of a path which sank into the interior.

   “That's right, we can expect the Aurochs to show up momentarily.”

   “Yet, we're somewhere else. The landscape is the same, but some details are missing."

   There were neither wood pontoons, nor stakes where the ships moored, nor rets stacked on the sand.

   “The storm! Tidus exclaimed. It might have blown away everything.”

   “I don't think so. The bleach would be crawling with people. They must be searching for us everywhere.”

   Before leaving the village, she had advised Wakka of her intention of getting on the Ace. Now, he must have been dead worried. She shook her head:

   “It's like Besaid, but it's a different island. I really wonder where we are...”

   “There's only one way to find it out. Let's go!”

38
Chapter 14
---

   Valm dreamt of producing an aeon and becoming immortal.

   He would live with Kush, and when the young woman would go into the Farplane to flower there, Valm would fall in with another summoner and would fight forever.

   He had often wondered what Aeon Cores dreamt about, and how their creature saw the world. He would never know it. He was going to die like an ordinary man.

   Gunshots had resounded behind him. A Bedohl in yellow, with a clumsy walk, had appeared suddenly. Smoke was still escaping from the barrel of the rifle he was tightening under his left arm. Valm did not know how many bullets he had fired. In the bedroom, everyone, except for the newcomer, was in a stupor. Then the hirsute Bedohl insulted his comrade vehemently. Kush stood up straight, screeched and fell again onto the bed. She could not stand, Ifahnal had to support her.

   Valm was going to faint. Kush was screaming, but Valm did not want to answer her. She was getting on his nerves. As for the high-pitched bawls of the Bedohls, they were wearing him out. The owner of the rifle was vociferating, his right arm raised... with no hand at the end. His stump was wrapped with a dressing soaked with blood.

   He has come to take revenge on me.

   Valm's life against the hand of the Bedohl. In the eyes of the Guard, the deal appeared to be hardly stable. Somehow like this story of hell and flowers.

   “How do you feel?” Ifahnal asked.

   Valm would have wanted to tell him how his question was stupid, but he could not speak anymore.

   “Are you in pain?”

   Valm was not suffering. His death was imminent.

   He directed his regard towards Kush, paralysed by stupefaction. Ifahnal was holding her in his arms. It was certainly one of the worst viewings that the Guard could bring along with him in his death, at the risk of turning himself into a terrifying monster.

   “Ifahnal...”

   Just a whisper, but it was enough. Without releasing Kush's shoulders, the summoner leaned over to him.

   “Send me in the world beyond. I don't want to go into hell or become an affrayed creature."

   “Valm,” Kush spoke, “I... I am sorry.”

“Summoner Ifahnal, who bears the name of the god of beauty... perform the rite.”

   “Valm...”

   Kush burst into tears. He continued to ignore her. From now on, this was the only way to punish her.

   “Valm,” Ifahnal answered with a grimace, “you're mistaken.”

   Valm would have liked to listen to the rest, but the night was falling in his world. He closed his eyes.

   He had to get rid of his regrets; else he would turn into a monster. Hell was awaiting him. He had heard say of that in some cases, if the deceased was too angry, Sending rites could fail. He had to put himself in a favourable state of mind.

   “Hurry, Ifahnal...”

   “No!” Kush shouted.

   Valm did not understand her reaction.

   Why does she refuse me the ceremony? Does she want me to return as a monster? To go to hell?

   This is her who is punishing me...

   He had taken on the name of the god of order, but he had let himself get sucked into the chaos of passion. That was the source of all his errors. His place was indeed in hell.

   ‘I wonder what kinds of tortures are awaiting me over there…’ Valm thought – whose real name was Bria.

(Note: Bria is the French name for Briah.)

39
Chapter 13
---

   The island was still far away, and even Tidus was not sure if they could reach the coastline. Their shark had run out of strength. It was floating on its back, stomach facing the sun. Tidus and Yuna were holding a pectoral fin and were talking to each other above the monster. The pyreflies which were escaping from the corpse were skimming Tidus before being carried away by the wind.

   “The scavengers should be here soon to devour it,” Yuna presaged while chattering. “We must move away.”

   The air was sweet, but the two of them had already spent too much time in the water. They were frozen and exhausted.

   Tidus acquiesced and firmed his grip on the fin. He pulled up his knees to his chest and pressed his sole again the side of the shark.

   “Let's go.”

   After a deep breath, he pressed on his legs and let go. He jumped backwards, and then started to swim towards the island. When he turned over Yuna, he saw her talking to the cadaver of the shark. Tidus whistled and waved to the young woman so that she joined him. She nodded and said farewell to their mount. He watched her coming closer slowly, swimming the breaststroke, and then they headed towards the island.

   The water was still deep.

   He was gazing at the progression of Yuna, who was moving on her back as of now. She was keeping a regular pace: she breathed out on two phases, then at the third one she stretched her arm backwards and breathed in deeply. He hoped that she could keep up like this much longer. If he had to come to her assistance, he wanted to keep his energy until the last minute.

   “Keep going, Yuna!”

   He talked to her when she breathed in, in order to not distract her.

   “Thank you!”

   She smiled at him, lost the pace of her breathing and swallowed water.

   She started to cough and spit out the water, and Tidus stretched his hand out to her. She was more tired than he had thought.

   “Sorry, I shouldn't have disrupted you.”

   She was now standing plumb, but was struggling to keep afloat. He placed himself behind her, passed his forearm under her chin and started to swim while supporting her.

   “I'm sorry...”

   “Don't worry. It’s easier like this, right?”

   “Yes, but I'm feeling guilty.”

   “I told you not to worry, really!”

   “Do I remove this?” she suggested while showing her large dress. “I have a swimsuit under it.”

   The item of clothing, which was floating around her, hindered her movements sometimes. It was starting to get in his way too.

   “Sure.”

   “Don't watch!” she said with a singing tone.

   “All right.”

   He averted his eyes. During a few moments, he felt her wriggling under his arm.

   “Okay, I'm done!”

   When he lowered his eyes, he discovered the back of Yuna’s neck, her dress rolled into a ball on her chest and her pale legs outstretched on the water’s surface.

   They remained silent a moment. Then:

   “Those monstrous sharks,” the young woman began, “there are none around Besaid. We must have moved far away from our island.”

   “Or maybe the storm dragged them away from their territory,” Tidus objected.

   “And they would have lost their way near Besaid?”

   “Yes, I think so. I wonder if we were that far away when we sank. It was dark, and then, with the morning mist, we might have not noticed the island.”

   “Do you think it's Besaid we're seeing right now?”

   “Yes, but you know it better than me, so if you say I'm wrong, I trust you.”

   He pivoted so that Yuna could see the island.

   “The shape is familiar, but something is wrong.”

   “What?”

   “The water is very cold. It's strange.”

   “Yes, I've also noticed,” the young man conceded.

   And this detail was worrying her. On the shallows which were surrounding Besaid, the water warmed up fast. But in the present case, her feet were freezing.

   “You know...” Yuna began with a hesitant tone.

   “Yes?” Tidus encouraged her.

   “We're not getting closer to the island.”

   She was right. They had swum in a straight line towards their destination, but Tidus had the impression of following a very different way.

   I do not have a good feeling about this...

   Was the current making them drift? If the movement of the tides was added to the equation, the danger was even more apparent. He stared desperately in the direction of the island. His right arm, with which he was swimming, was shivering with fatigue.

   He felt Yuna raising the one he had passed under her chin and pulling out her head.

   “Thank you for your help, I was able to rest. You'll move easier alone, right? I'll manage.”

   She had caught her breath.

   “Okay. I'll go ahead of you?”

   “Yes. It's better this way.”

   She left her dress rolled into a ball and smiled at Tidus. But she was appallingly pale, and her lips had blued.

   “Let's go!”

   He turned over in the direction of the island, which had moved away again.

   “Yes, let's go!” Yuna repeated behind him.

   He assented and started again to swim, slowly.

   He was wondering if, from now on, he could see the bottom. He plunged his head into the water to check. But as far as he was regarding, he was only meeting the darkness of the depths. Exactly like the day before, when he had returned to the world. He wondered if the ocean was going to engulf him afresh.

   Was his destiny to dissolve in the darkness with his new memories of Yuna?

   No way!

   He was sinking. He swam towards the surface and got his head above water. The island seemed always far.

   “Yuna...”

   He was exhausted.

   “Say, Yuna...”

   Tidus turned over. He was alone in the middle of the water.

   “No...”

   He took a deep breath to plunge, but stopped himself and whistled quietly. His throat and his lungs were burning him. His stomach was heavy like lead.

   "Okay, let's go!"

   In order to save Spira’s population from Sin's rage, Yuna had faced death, a smile on her face. Was it the same smile she had worn while they were swimming?

   She has not changed.

   It was the same for the distance between the island and them. Tidus felt overcome by distress.

   I cannot do anything from now on...

   He stared a last time at the so desired land. He wasn’t any closer than before, but he must have been seeing it from a different angle, because in the middle of the greenery, he discovered an orange mark. It was the colour of the metallic towers with which Besaid was dotted.

   “Yuna!” he yelled.

   He gathered his last ounce of strength and plunged into darkness.

   Yuna, Yuna, Yuna...

   He was ashamed. Two years earlier, he had come into this world, blown away by Sin and pushed by Auron, because Spira demanded a metamorphosis, and he was expected to be the catalyst. Was it the case again this time?

   Spira is demanding me. No, it is Yuna who needs me. She wanted to change, but she did not manage to do it. That is why I am here.

   He had plunged quite far under the surface, but did not see her yet. He raised his head: the white dress was drifting gently on the waves. He turned round and round and scrutinized the darkness. Unlike water in Blitzball spheres, seawater was scorching his eyes.
   He was hesitating over coming to the surface. He beat his foot and felt all his muscles tensing: they were screaming their exhaustion.

   He had already experienced this sensation during a match, at Zanarkand. His body was going to freeze, he knew it.

   In the middle of the match, he had slipped before the crowd of spectators. He had been a member of the team for a few months only.

   No...

   It did not happen. Only his experiences in Spira were real. The Zanarkand he remembered was just a dream.

   His chest was in pain. Was he drowning? Was he recalling a past accident?

Impossible to say.

   Dad...

   The day he felt himself drowning for the first time, he had called for his father, who had just put him into water so that he would learn how to swim. Tidus had swallowed water a lot of times before managing to wade into Zanarkand's waters. His memories were becoming more and more muddled, but he was seeing his father again, who was swimming like a fish, grabbing hold of him and getting him out of water.

   I am in pain, Dad. Help...

   His eyes closed, Tidus was scrutinizing the darkness in order to find his father.

   He is not here any more.

   He was mindful of being in the narrow space which separated dreams from reality. If he let go, he could avoid suffering.

   I am in pain...

   His body was burning him, his legs especially. The pain was real. His knees pulled up against his chest, in foetal position, he concentrated on this sensation. He was seeing himself drifting in the darkness.

   Who is there? Who is coming closer to me?

   He recognized a familiar impression, like the one he had felt when he had arrived in Spira the first time, mixed with Sin.

   He did not know any more if his eyelids were opened or closed, but he was catching sight of a white shape.

   Yuna?

   It was really her, locked in a shadow: a black and shiny shape, different from the darkness which was engulfing everything. It had the shape of a man, five times bigger than Yuna. The giant was holding the young woman in its arms and was coming closer to Tidus.

   Who is there?

   He screwed up his eyes. He was suffering. It was the reality.

   The giant he was observing was his father. He was swimming like a fish. In his right arm, he was holding Yuna. And in his left one...

   Thank you, Dad!

40
FFX-3 Speculation and Developments / Re: Final Fantasy X-2.5 : The Truth
« on: February 20, 2015, 10:59:29 am »
I believe realistically, both Bevelle and Zanarkand would have weapons, since Zanarkand was a flourishing machina city; it wouldn't make sense for them to just use magic and summoners when they are also very technologically advanced.

However, Bevelle had the Bedohls, which could potentially be very dangerous suits of armour. They probably had the power to fight and create even more dangerous weapons, since these are pretty much the ancestors of the Al Bhed, which are machina whizzes.

41
   
“Alb!” he yelled.

   The old man had disappeared. Several false mechanical Bedohls – disguised persons, not to lure the enemy, but their allies – raised their eyes in direction of the Guard.

   “Say to Alb that he can run away wherever he wants: I'll find him and I'll make him pay for his treason!”

   To align in front of the enemy mechanical soldiers which would go fight in place of humans, here is the utopia which had supported him until now... Despite the fact he was a soldier, he had dreamt of a world where he would not have to fight. None should ever discover this secret desire.

   Their hands moved apart as an apologize gesture, the Bedohls answered with their own disgusting language.

   “Be quiet!” Valm intimidated them, exasperated on how they were informally talking to him.

   The memory of Kush, going back up from the workshop through the gate number 1, imposed on his mind. What could she do over there?

   “They're in the living quarters, Valm!”

   Suddenly back to the present, he raised his eyes. One of his men had popped his head, covered with blood, around the inner gate number 0.

   “The summoners, hurry...” he continued, before falling to the ground.

   ‘Kush!’

   The living quarters were similar to a labyrinth of corridors which led to bedrooms. This was the most protected place of the base. How could the enemy have accessed it?

   ‘Alb...’

   According to Valm, only Alb could have led them as far as there. Blinded by rage, he headed towards Kush's bedroom.

   A long-haired enemy, probably a woman, was progressing towards the end of the quarters while leaning on the wall. She appeared to be injured. Valm slipped behind her, put the point of his sabre on the neck of the enemy and pressed: he felt his spinal cord yielding to his sword. Then he trampled the cadaver and kicked her in the ribs.

   A very cruel act, he was completely aware of it. The battles were applying their influence on him. The wrath and the resentment of the slain were spreading along their souls.

   “Protect me, Luchera!” Valm exclaimed while setting forth in the corridor at the double.

   At the height of the battle, only one who retained his composure could hope to survive. And he had to remind himself when he would meet Kush. He had to be Valm, the Guard she was admiring and loving.

   The quarters of the summoners were located in the core of the labyrinth. Ten doors opened onto their corridor. Kush's one had the number three. Arrived in front of the bedroom of the young woman, he froze. Since he had walked into Kush and Ifahnal back there, the situation had deteriorated.

   “May I talk to vous?” she had asked.

   “Later. My men are fighting.”

   “Really?”

   “Stop right now, this is not the time!”

   Valm gritted his teeth and hit his head against the door. Any fortress could fall if his commander had his mind filled with a woman. No need for a traitor for that.

   “Give me a chance to redeem myself...”

   He hit the panel board of the door, three times, according to the agreed pace. The dial lighted up. On the other side of the partition, a bell must ring out. But nobody reacted to it. The enemy had not reached this place yet, however the smell of death was already present. A metallic combination of gunpowder and blood, with the sweet touch left by the souls.

   ‘Kush...’

   He hit the board again, only one time. The door did not move. Nobody replied.

   Valm passed by the doors numbers 4 and 5, and stopped before the number 6. Ifahnal's bedroom. He knocked on the door and waited. And then a ball rolled towards his feet.

‘A bomb.’

   His first reflex was to send it back with a kick, but he feared that the impact would activate it. He jumped backwards and ran for his life. After the door number 10, the corridor formed an elbow to the right. Valm had barely the time to turn and to pin against the wall. The racket of the explosion did not suffice to drown out the surprise scream of Ifahnal. He had opened the door one second before the detonation. Valm swore and left his hideout.

   The enemy was standing on the other end of the corridor, close to the door number 1, and was progressing towards him. His sabre in his hand, Valm rushed towards the enemy. When he passed by the door number 6, he shouted: "Close it!"

   He was facing three combatants, which were moving in single file. The corridor, narrow, was slowing down the progression of the invaders. The head man, a brown-haired teenager, fired a shot. Valm immediately dove in order to avoid the bullet, rolled and stood up straight. His run-up led the point of his sabre against the throat of its opponent. He sliced it without hesitation. The two comrades of the dead one were even younger, and not really determined. Valm, covered with sweat and blood, read fear in their eyes. The second in the line froze, and his comrade bumped into him. Both of them lost their balance. Valm squatted, took the weapon of the dead, and fired. The bullet got through its target, and also hit the last enemy. The two combatants fell down. One where he was standing this instant, the other several steps further.

   “I can't manage to close the door, it's broken!”

   In a panic, Ifanahl hurtled into the corridor. The scenery he discovered made him grimace.

   “Evacuate!”

   The summoner did not move.

   “Where is Kush?” Valm asked. “She doesn't reply when I knock on her door.”

   Ifahnal stole a glance at his own bedroom then, awkwardly, stroked his chin before inviting the Guard to follow him.

   The room was square and not lovely, its walls had been let bare. The occupant of the room appeared to be less preoccupied by the decor than by his look.

   “She is in the back. But be careful... To be honest, I need to talk to you, before...”

   Valm saw the four-poster bed hidden with a screen and hurried to it.

   “Kush!”

   He moved the screen aside with a kick and discovered the young woman, half-naked and asleep.

   “Valm, wait...” Ifanahl spoke. “I only know this method... There exist other ones, but I have not been taught to use them.”

   The Guard turned round and sent his fist into the face of the summoner, who fell down on the ground. Then he caught hold of Kush's shoulders in order to shake her. She opened partway her eyes and smiled frailly.

   “What happened to you?” Valm asked.

   She did not answer. He tried to have her sit down and noticed her glassy look.

   “What the... Kush?”

   “Valm!” Ifanahl shouted.

   The concerned one turned over and discovered that the enemy had got into the bedroom. An enemy he thought to have been eliminated.

   The attacker brandished his sabre above his head. Valm was unarmed, and if he parried the blow, there was a good chance that the sword hit Kush. He took his decision and bent his knees. He had the intention of bumping into his assailant. But he did not have the time to do it: he saw the head of the man toppling in a blood geyser and rolling on the ground. The body hit Valm before falling down. In the frame of the door, a "mechanical" Bedohl rewound the rope he had just used, apparently proud of itself.

   Ifanahl stood up straight and spoke to the Bedohl. He was talking to it in the disgusting language of the creature. Then, both of them skirted Valm in shock to get closer  to Kush. They stood up the summoner and had her sit down on the bed. She appeared to be still spaced out. When the Bedohl slapped her, Valm wanted to go for the throat of the impudent one. But Ifanahl grasped the waist of the Guard and held him back with all his strength. After a second slap, Kush opened her eyes. The Bedohl took off its glasses and mask, revealing a hirsute head, vaguely familiar.

   He was a part of those who always supported the palanquin of the young woman. He said something, and, to Valm's utter astonishment, Kush answered him. But she did not do anything to cover her bare body, and did not have a single glance for her paramour.

   ‘I am the only one to not understand what is happening.’

   He felt his strength leaving him. But a dark feeling, possessing his own train of thought, was starting to bubble up inside his heart.

   'O Sloan, who should I kill first?'

   He tried to convince himself that the battle was ruining his mind, without great success. Finally, Kush turned towards him. He read astonishment, then confusion on her face. She hastily wrapped her chest and smiled perfunctorily.

42
Chapter 12
---

   Sloan and his troops flushed four murderers out.

   They slaughtered the first three, but caught the last one to question him, and took him to the east side of the island.

   On the beach, Sloan and about twenty of his subordinates were surrounding the prisoner, buried in the sand up to his neck.

   “Kill me, let's get this over with!” the enemy declared.

   Young, he was quavering. All the agents of the Mage reacted the same way. When the murderer had understood only death was awaiting him, he refused to answer the questions and persisted in demanding to kill him.

   Sloan knew he would not squeeze anything out of this man. The Guard could not leave his post without receiving the associated order. A long wait was promised.

   Since they had settled on the island, they had led their battle in a passive way. For Sloan, who had dedicated his sabre to the goddess of war and had taken on the name of the god of vengeance, this situation was frustrating. Until now, he had suffered in silence while waiting for his brother to bind to his first Aeon Core.

   But Anli was dead, and Sloan hated his younger: smooth talker but indecisive, as strong as he loved him. When he had learnt that Anli possessed the gift, he felt so proud...

   ‘Now that he is not here anymore, who should I protect?

   The summoner at the head of Bevelle had declared the Mage of Zanarkand, his daughter and their supporters heretics, but it had not excommunicated them. Why? According to the rumours, Bevelle needed the charisma of the two Mages to win the war, and wanted to use them until the end. They had to lead Zanarkand to abandon the technological weapons, which would make the victory easier for Bevelle. Sloan thought the reasoning was twisted. We could not spare those who were renouncing the gods. They had to be eliminated as quickly as possible. That was the goal of the elite unit stationed on this island. But the Mages had understood the plan of their enemy, and were sending to it brainwashed murderers.

   ‘Is my government manipulating me, doing the same to it?’ Sloan thought suddenly.

   Even the children knew that the gods were imaginary. Yet, anyone could picture them. This common illusion tightened the links, to the extent that the men were ready to give their life for it.

   ‘Yes, this is brainwashing.

   “Do we begin the questioning?” Kat spoke.

   “He won't answer us,” Sloan replied before reconsidering. “Did you meet the Sorceress?” he asked. “People say that she's of an incomparable beauty. Is that right?”

   The prisoner remained silent. His eyes lost in the distance, he gave a faint smile.

   “You're nothing to her, you know that? She's just making use of you and your comrades before leaving you. Nobody will come to save you!”

   For an instant, the prisoner raised his eyes to Heaven.

   ‘Will reinforcements come from the sky?’

   Sloan was not seeing anything but he knew that flying devices had joined the ranks of the combatants. This kind of weapon was going to turn the tide, he was sure of that.

   “Kill me,” the man repeated.

   “I see. The tide is rising; your head will soon remain under the waves. You won't be the first one to try to breathe under water, but nobody managed to do it. Do you think you'll succeed where the others failed?”

   “You're a monster...”

   “One of your comrades has killed my little brother. Of course, you didn't do it yourself, but you could have. The problem, you see, it's that you've come here to kill him. So you won't get off so lightly. You'll die... but slowly. You'll leave this world while cursing it, and feeling pain. After that, do me a pleasure: turn into a monster and come back to me. The next time, I'll tear you into pieces then I'll throw them in fire.”

   Sloan had not finished talking yet the man burst out laughing. A soldier moved forward to silence him, but the captive had suddenly become silent again. He was staring at the sky.

   Everybody did the same. An unknown noise was approaching. A light whistling replied from the sand. This was the prisoner.

    A ship appeared to be flying over the opposite coast of the island. Then he appeared at the top of the mountain, just above the Luchera statue.

   This was the first time Sloan was seeing an aircraft. He discovered a triangular airship, very noisy and slow.

   Arriving above the beach, the machine turned itself on and started its descent.

   Sloan and his comrades all moved away in haste in order to shelter under the vegetation. When the officer took a look behind him, he saw that a part of the shell, under the aircraft, had opened: a battalion was already shinning down a set of thick ropes.

   His weapon in his hand, Sloan turned around and rushed towards the beach.

   On the back on each enemy, he was making out a bag made of strings, containing a ball: a bomb like the one Valm had described.

   Fifteen to twenty infantrymen were rappelling down. The first one put a foot on the beach and, without taking a break, fired intensively on the buried captive. Sloan saw the head of the murderer tipping over.

   The prisoner had behaved bravely, like a great soldier. If they had fought in the same camp, they would have got along well.

   “And yet...”

   He did not finish his sentence. His men were looking at him waiting for an order.

   “The last time I checked, a life was of better worth than that,” he said with a bitter laugh.

   He immediately became serious:

   “Return to the base, make a report to Valm, then place yourself under his orders. Kat will ensure the command of the group until there.”

   Then Sloan pointed his sabre in the direction of the enemy with a wild howl.

   “After my death, let Valm take over the name of Sloan!”

   ‘He has always been more worthy of this name than me.’

   Nobody returned to the base. The aircraft had spread enemies everywhere in the island. Exhausted, the young woman knew that she would meet her death very soon, but did not fear it. She has been waiting for this moment since the demise of the one who had counted so much to her.

   “Kanaela...”

   Despite her gift of summoner, she was killed six months earlier without having completed anything. And now that she was no more, what were the chances for Kat to have the honour to become an Aeon Core?

   Kush would choose Valm, and the Guard would produce an impressive creature. Who would Ifahnal have his heart set on? He was apparently in love with Kush, but the young woman rejected his advances. Anyway, Kat doubted that a summoner could become an Aeon Core. It would be a huge waste.

   In that case, there was still a place to take. Yet, even if Ifahnal chose Kat, the young woman doubted that they could reach a genuine soul bond. She had heard say that summoner and Aeon Core must have powerful mutual feelings in order for the ceremony to be fruitful.

   With Kanaela, everything would have been easy. But with Ifahnal...

   Offering his life to the promised one was one thing. To sacrifice itself for a stranger only for a pride desire was much more difficult. How she was regretting Kanaela's death!

   A set of close explosions pulled her from her thoughts.

   ‘They are launching an attack!’ She thought.

   If the massive aircraft was full of soldiers, the Guards had no chance of survival. Kat stood up straight; she would never be an Aeon Core, but she could still be the armed arm of vengeance.

   ‘O Sloan, give me the strength to lay low our enemies!’

   To give herself courage, she remembered her happy days, when Kanaela was by her side. She snaked in and out of the trees, until she reached a hilltop. From there, she could see the entrance of the base.

   Beside the dented gate number 3, Kat recognized the cadavers of Gekkoh and Romand. Her comrades were not dead in vain; they had dragged several enemies into the Farplane. A familiar sword jutted out from the body of one of them, a beautiful young man.

   Kat held back a cry and hurried to the gate number 0.

   She discovered a gaping breach, and a smell of blood assailed her immediately. At the same time, an object struck her back. She turned round. The forest appeared to be wilderness, but a ball was rolling slowly towards her foot. She heard a "click", and then the ball started to dilate.

   This was the last picture that Kat saw, just before being thrust out by the scorching blast of air.

   ‘Will I flower in the world beyond?’

*
   
Valm was searching for Kush.

   A few hours earlier, the stateroom was like a countryside hospital. But since the enemy had broken through their defence, it was more like a battlefield. The smell of death was unbearable.

   The souls were fluttering above the mass grave on which they were spreading a pasty glow.

   An explosion resounded outside, and a voice shouted the name of Kat. Just after, another one announced the death of the young woman. Nobody had the time to take care of the wounded persons. Although the Guards were an elite unit, their equipment was outdated. They could not stand up to Zanarkand's troops and to their constant technological progress.

“Despite everything...”

   ‘The time has come. We are more united than ever.’

   He was going to become an Aeon Core. It was the only way to turn the situation around.

   The stairs which led to the living quarters were partially collapsed and scorched.

‘Another bomb,’ Valm supposed.

   He stepped over the cadavers of the men he was responsible for, and sent a prayer to Guard, the god of the Farplane, to take care of them. When he reached the stairs, he turned around in order to behold the room. Ashamed of the relief he felt when he was certain that Kush's body was not amongst the cadavers, he started to climb the stairs again.

   Three enemies burst into the living room. At the same moment, the gate number 1 delivered passage to the troubling – or comical - procession of the mechanical Bedohls wearing their too-big suits and their gas mask. They went into the room slowly, while swirling their chains. The enemy opened fire.

   Alb had demanded three more days to complete his project. After three years of research, Valm was wondering what three days could have changed. The old man appeared suddenly behind his creations. He appeared to be on his last legs.

   “Valm! I'm leaving the workshop, sorry...”

   The Guard acquiesced brusquely.

   “Come back here!” Alb ordered the Bedohls, while handing a signal.

   “No,” Valm said. “They must fight.”

   “They would only get under your feet.”

   A new explosion announced the arrival of other enemies. Alb and his Bedohls headed towards the emergency exit, and Valm started to climb again. Just before crossing the inner gate, he turned around one last time. The living room was presenting a macabre scene where they were merging the flowers of the altar, the blood and the cadavers, in the funeral light of the drifting souls.

   “You're running away, coward!”

   A young man, a sabre in his hand, rushed towards Valm.

   He surely wanted to conserve his ammunition, which was going to make the battle more balanced. Valm went down to meet him.

   “Bring it on, son of a heretic!” the Guard spat out.

   He received the enemy with a large arc of his sabre and felt the weapon cutting into the side of his target as far as the navel. He made sure with a glimpse of the inflicted damage, then turned around and walked away towards the gate number 0. The ripped open man toppled into the void. Valm hurried. It should not take a lot of time before the soul of his victim turn into a monster, he thought, just before hearing a death throes cry resonating at the floor below.

   Some mechanical Bedohls were lying on the ground, covered with blood. Val thought of the workers who must remain in the workshop. He had never regarded the Bedohls as humans, but now he had pity on them.

   What happened next made him understand. He saw the mechanical Bedohls gathering around their injured comrades and helping them to stand up straight.

   ‘They are humans,’ he understood suddenly.

   Alb had never managed to create artificial combatants. He had made use of the Bedohls to insure his own escape.

   With a tightened jaw, Valm went downstairs slowly.

43
FFX-3 Speculation and Developments / Re: Final Fantasy X-2.5 : The Truth
« on: February 10, 2015, 02:17:41 pm »
...Oh my, Tidus.

Am I noticing parallels being drawn between these two and Valm and Kushu? :P

44
Chapter 11
---

   In the middle of the night, the Ace was pitching so strongly that Tidus and Yuna were trying so hard to keep their balance.

   The two young people had torn the bed linen to make a rope and tie up to each other. Standing close to the rudder, Tidus was trying to look outside, in vain. Secured by Yuna, he ventured on the upper deck. His face lashed by the rain, he screwed up his eyes, without succeeding in piercing the darkness. He felt tightness on the rope coiled around him and turned over. Yuna wanted him to come back.

   “I couldn't see anything!” he explained when he came closer to her.
   
He was dripping with seawater.

   “We'll have to wait for the storm to subside,” she answered. “In a few hours, the sun will rise. And then, we'll be able to find our bearings and...”

   She grimaced. Finding the north was one thing, returning to Besaid was another.
 
   “And maybe we'll see the island,” she finished. “Don't worry. Moreover, our friends will search for us. From the sky, the Gullwings will find us in no time at all.”

   “You seem rather composed,” Tidus noted.

   “I may not look like much, but I've grown up on an island! And also experienced lots of scary adventures.”

   “You're already talking like an old woman,” Tidus declared with a disparaging tone, while showing an amused face.

   “The horror!”

   She gave a sulky pout. A few moments later, they caught each other's eye and they exchanged a smile.

   “I think everything will be okay,” Yuna repeated.

   “Despite all of our problems?”

   Suddenly, the ship plunged between two waves. Tidus felt his stomach turning, whereas Yuna closed her eyes. The young man executed a step towards her, but at this moment the hull of the Ace split open with an almost human whine. Losing his balance, Tidus hurt his head against the rudder. He smelt gunpowder and fainted.


   When he opened his eyes, the sun had risen. No more breaths of wind, no more clouds. And no more ship too. From the Ace, only a plank remained, barely large enough to support the weight of one person, and on which was resting Tidus.

   “Stay where you are, don't move,” a voice whispered.

   Yuna was just behind him. In water up to her shoulders, she was turning her back on him. A monster was facing her. The beast looked like a turtle, but it was enormous. Its head and the biggest part of its shell protruded out the surface. Glassy-eyed, it was releasing a light smell of rot.

   “Yuna...”

   Yuna turned over, and he discovered her distressed look, her sunk and ringed eyes.

   ‘Since when has she been protecting me?’

   The monster did not move, and Tidus wondered if Yuna had managed to calm it.

 Then he saw a stick... no, a trident, broken, driven into the neck of the monster.

   He imagined the battle that Yuna had had to fight against the beast, whereas himself was just baggage in the way.

   “I'm sorry,” he whispered.

   His partner expressed to him a weak smile, leaned her head and closed her eyes.

   “Yuna?”

   The summoner sank slowly into the water. As if following her, the monster plunged its head under the surface.

   Tidus sat up straight on his fragile plank, balancing carefully. Then he pulled on the rope still coiled around his waist. Straight after, Yuna reappeared above the waves. As fast as possible, he pulled the young woman near him, still followed by the monster, before holding her under her arms and hauling her beside him. But their refuge was precarious, and the beast was still there, very close. Tidus noted the vacant look, the shining fangs and the red tongue hiding behind. In his arms, he felt Yuna's body, so delicate that he feared to break it. This sensation remembered him of a happy event, which occurred two years ago: their first kiss, at Lake Macalania. The young woman he was holding against him was the same person he had kissed in the middle of the lake. This memory awoke inside him a powerful emotion.

   “I'll never forgive you!” Tidus shouted.

   Who was he speaking to? The monster? Himself? He did not know at all.

   “I'll protect her at all costs!”

   He stood up straight with caution and tried to untie the rope which was connecting them. While Tidus was struggling with the soaked fabric, the monster came nearer again and managed to put its chin on the plank. At that rate, the two young people would topple soon in water. Abandoning the node, Tidus leaped on the back of the beast. On all fours on the shell, he turned over the nape of the neck of the monster. He snatched half of the trident which Yuna had used to put the monster in isolation. He raised it sky-high and drove it with all his strength into the top of the head of the monster, where the weapon disappeared completely. Immediately, the chin of the turtle slid from the plank and fell in water. The monster ceased to move.

   A foul smell, going along with a repugnant liquid, was escaping right away from the wound.

   ‘We must escape,’ Tidus thought while seeing the gloomy humour spreading though the water.

   At this moment, a new animal broke the surface: a shark, with a body covered with reptile scales. He leaped above the couple and disappeared at the other side of the carcass of the giant turtle. Tidus heard a high-pitched whistling.

   ‘It is calling for its fellow creatures.’

   As if confirming this intuition, several creatures from the same species emerged and converged towards the head of the dead monster, which they started to devour. Standing on the back of the victim, Tidus was attending the feast, as mesmerised. He knew that he had to keep Yuna away from this macabre banquet as quickly as possible, but found it more careful to not approach the water. Were they constrained to stay here?

   ‘It’s make or break...

   He recovered the trident from the head of the turtle and went back to the plank where he had left Yuna, still unconscious. He coiled the rope around her waist, the one he had not managed to get rid of. He had to carry the young woman on his back, which turned out more difficult than planned on their makeshift raft. Tidus wondered suddenly if it would not have been better to stay on the half-devoured carcass.

   Carefully, he came close to the water's edge and took a deep breath. Concentrating all his energy in his legs, he leaped once again. But this time, he was holding Yuna. He had wrongly estimated the weight difference: instead of reaching the turtle, he fell in the water.

   He immediately felt being pulled down, and it took him a few seconds to understand what was happening. Then he remembered the rope which was still connecting him with Yuna: it had coiled itself around one of the squalls, which was having in tow the two young people under the water from now on.

   The animal in question suddenly cornered a long moment, in order to return to the carcass of the turtle.

   He seized the opportunity to let himself sink. He hoped then that Yuna would come to the surface. Without paying attention to its unwitting passengers, the squall started again its lunch. Tidus skirted it, praying its fellow creatures to not notice him. He caught Yuna and dragged her away with him in the open air. Then he coiled the rope around the dorsal fin of the squall. The first step of his plan was a success. From now on, he had to climb on the back of the animal. How will the creature react to this? Tidus did not know enough about this species to predict it.

   He had to struggle to mount the squall. The beast struggled, but, probably too focused on its lunch, it did not try to attack its tamer. The young man grabbed onto the dorsal fin which was splitting the sea surface to keep his posture.

   He had to install Yuna. He pulled the rope to take her to him. Despite all his efforts, he did not manage to wedge her on the back of the shark. She had to cling herself to the animal.

   “Yuna?  Are you hearing me, Yuna? I'm going to get the upper hand over this, don't worry. But I need you to wake up.”

   At this moment, another shark suddenly arose from the waves very close to the young woman and leaped above them after a long whistling. With a flash of inspiration, the young man raised two fingers to his mouth and answered it on the same tone. The tone was so strong that Yuna woke up with a start.

   “Tidus? Where are you?”

   “I'm here, just beside you.”

   She raised her head and saw him.

   “What happened?”

   “Monsters are turning around us, and I'm trying hard to control our mount. Don't worry, it's just a matter of time. There's no way we'll end up as shark snacks!”

   With a deep sigh, Yuna acquiesced.


   Once replete, the squall moved away from the carcass, swimming quietly just under the water surface.

   “I wonder where it's taking us...”

   “I would like it to go over there,” Yuna answered.

   She was showing a point on the horizon. Tidus screwed up his eyes.

   “It's... Besaid?”

   “I'm not sure. But any island will always be better than the back of a shark.”

   “We're drawing away from it,” Tidus noticed. “And quickly.”

   The squall was three times bigger than the young man, and the weight of its passengers did not appear to slow it.

   “Hey!” the young man shouted.

   Of course, the animal did not answer.

   “Well, I think I don't have a choice.”

   Tidus moved the trident in his left hand and jabbed the head of their mount on what appeared to be one of its cheeks.

   “And don't you dare plunge!” he averted it.

   If the shark sank too much under the surface, Tidus would have to goad it under the stomach. The young man loathed to spread blood through the water one more time. Furthermore, he would have to go down by the animal's side, which had already reached a considerable speed. And if they reached too important depths, pressure would add to the other difficulties.

   A long shiver spread along the body of the squall, which ended up obeying to the order of its tamer and cornered on the right, in direction of the island.

   “Forgive us,” Yuna declared.

   Tidus was not feeling guilty at all. Sharks know only one rule: To devour or to be devoured. It was the same for all beings in Spira, and the young man was just implementing this essential rule to survive in a merciless world. He had to be severe towards every being who threatened him. Spira's inhabitants were subjected to more than hard living situations.

   In this situation, Yuna was, without doubt, a treasure. Who else would have asked for the animal's forgiveness?

   He turned over towards his partner. She was lying flat on her stomach on the back of the shark, around which she had put her arms and her legs. He remembered the day when the young woman had summoned her first Aeon, Valefor.

   At that time, he did not know if he dealt with a wild beast or a monster, but he had understood that if Yuna was able to control a so powerful being, he could not live a normal story by her side.

   Suddenly, a new thought appeared in his mind and warmed his heart. He knew about the "normal" side of the summoner, better than anyone else. A lot of people were familiar with her public image, these of a young woman, serious and stubborn, inflexible too.

   ‘But me, I understand her like nobody else.’

   “What are you thinking about?” Yuna asked.

   “Why do you ask?"

   “You're smiling.”

   “Really? No, it must be the fatigue which is contracting the muscles of my face.”

   He turned towards their destination. Now, the island was close enough to make out the hill which was standing at the centre, and the greenery which was covering everything. Besaid or not, they would find food and water. He let out a little laugh.

   “What?”

   “Nothing.”

   “You secretive little thing!”

   She laughed in her turn, softly.

45
Chapter 10
---

   It was soon noon. Valm knew it because of the length of the shadow he was projecting.

   Standing on an air duct, he was taking advantage of this privileged place to contemplate the gathering of his comrades. They were ninety-five to sixty-three men and thirty-two women - sixteen years old for the youngest, twenty-five for the oldest. Valm was twenty-three.

   “Look at them, Sloan pointed out, who was the eldest. They're so harsh! I like it.”

   “That's right. But what about breakfast?”

   For the second time in the space of a few minutes, Valm's stomach pointed himself out loudly to him. He had not eaten anything since the explosion, the night before.

   “Could you really swallow something?” Sloan whispered.

   Valm remembered that the man had just said good bye to his little brother, and lowered his eyes.

   “Sorry.”

   With a curt smile, his friend gave him a tap on his shoulder:

   “You really have no shame! Go eat discreetly and come back when you'll be done.”

   On these words, Sloan joined the Guards’ circle in order to thank them for all of their gestures of solicitude and their pledges of revenge he had received during the obsequies of his brother. He kept his head stooped a long moment, but when he stood up straight, his attitude had completely changed.

   “We can't afford to lose more summoners. From now on, there're only two. What will we do, if we can't protect them?”

   Originally, they were five on the island. Six months later, the Guards had lost Mikka and Kanaela. And this morning, Anli. Now, there are only Kush and Ifahnal. (Note: Ifahnal is French for Ifarnal.)

   Bevelle was continuing to produce mechanical weapons, and the city appeared to have reached new heights in terms of technical prowess. Armoured units and heavy infantry corps were moving towards Zanarkand, destroying everything on their path. Day after day, the Guards were receiving news about their spectacular progression. But the worst fear of the Mages from Zanarkand, father and daughter, was not the ingenuity of a worker clan.  They were dreading above all people who possessed the same capacities as them: summoners. They were sending murderer after murderer to the island. To this day, twenty-eight Guards had been killed during skirmishes.

   “We're going to form two squads,” Sloan announced. “Line up by ten!”

   The order was carried out immediately.

   “Lines one to eight: search section, under my command. Kat, form the units!”

   The concerned one, who was standing in the front line, stuck out her chest.

   “Yes, sir!” she answered really loudly.

   “Lines nine and ten,” Sloan continued, “you guard the base. When you meet the ten comrades left on-site, you'll be under Valm's orders. Your priority: to protect the summoners. Go!”

   “Alright...” Valm whispered.

   He jumped from his vantage point and came closer to his men.

   “We're going to return to the base immediately. Be careful along the way. Kill the enemy as soon as you see them. Woman or child, I don't care: no hesitation! We mustn't repeat the errors of the past.”

   “Yes, sir!” the fifteen Guards answered all together.
   One day, a young boy had washed up on the island. Thinking he was a refugee, the men had brought him into their refectory. There, the child had detonated himself. The summoner Mikka had met his death in this attack.

   Valm and his comrades have had to gather Mikka's remains, dispersed by the bomb. When Valm remembered the scenery, he felt the anger building inside him, and could not help himself to appeal to the divinity of vengeance. He used the violence of this feeling to dissimulate his relief: Mikka was preferable to Kush.

      Back in the base, he sent a subaltern picking up a portion for himself. He devoured it while patrolling around gate number zero. In accordance with what will happen, he may be closing it off. He commanded the young Gekkoh and Romand to arrange visiospheres around the gates numbers one to five.

   Protected with enormous building stones, the gate number zero was not afraid of bombs. In order to hide the ensemble, an assembly of steel tubes was supporting an artificial vegetation. From a faraway point, the place looked like a forest plot. You had to pass under the scaffolding to reach the gate. The other exits opened in many places in the island, at the ends/extremities of the underground air ducts. From the outside, they took different shapes in order to blend into the landscape, but from the inside, all of them had the same structure. The ventilator, controlled from the control room, carried out the primary function of the pipe. But with his sharp blades, it prevented also all intrusion. When a Guard had to pass, a control panel allowed it to stop the helix thanks to a secret code modified every day.

   Valm passed the gate number zero and entered the stateroom. The round room was big enough to receive the whole personnel of the island, with the exception of the Bedohls. The stone statues, representing the divinities, lined up against the wall. Their vacant looks converged at the centre of the room, on the altar. The room hosted both ceremonies like baptisms or marriages and business meeting. Behind the altar, long stairs led to the inner gate number zero and the living area. The exits numbers one and two were located under the steps. Valm started to go up. At the same time, the gate number one opened, revealing a passage for Kush. This hall led to the armoury, to the workshop of the Bedohls workers and to their dormitory. Even lower should be located the machineries of the base. What could she be doing in such a mucky place? She had the right to go there, but...

   When Valm opened his mouth to call Kush, a hand grabbed the young woman by the wrist and pulled her violently.

   Valm rushed immediately to her, but Kush was already reappearing from behind the door. With an energising gesture, she was rubbing her lips up with her right glove. She ceased as soon as she noticed Valm's presence.

   “Is everything okay?” the Guard asked.

   She avoided his eyes and did not answer. At that time, Valm saw the person who had grasped the young woman: Ifahnal.
   A young eighteen-year-old summoner – one year younger than Kush -, his massive figure was not due to fighting or working, but to bodybuilding. He liked putting it on display with skin-tight clothes. His face was rather ordinary, those you forget right away.

   He must be conscious of it. His muscle structure, his getup and the red dye he used to colour his hair represented as many attempts to rectify this "problem". But these efforts only brought to him the contempt of the Guards. Even the name he chose – Ifahnal, divinity of beauty -, sparked off criticisms and mockeries. The summoner did not inspire respect at all. Valm often thought that it would have been to the boy's advantage to show his self as more down-to-earth.

   But he was a part of the most important persons inside the base. Almost a hundred Guards had sworn to protect him at the risk of their life. What else may he want?

   What Valm had just come upon shed a new light on Ifahnal's behavior: he could not care less about the respect of the Guards. Only the interest of the young woman was important for him.

   Seemingly, he had not obtained it yet. And Valm would make sure that it remains like this.

   “Is there something wrong?” he asked. “The situation is serious, and we don't have time for quarrels. If you have a problem, you must settle it as quickly as possible.”

   Ifahnal ignored the question:

   “The mechanical Bedohl is ready.”

   It was plainly a way to change the subject and avoid conflict, but Valm could not ignore the news:

   “Great.”

   Ifahnal smiled:

   “He has memorised my voice. Do you want me to call it? Armoured Bedohl, get out of there!”

   The boy seemed as proud as if he himself had created the false Bedohl. As for Kush, she had placed herself behind Valm, as if hiding. As if staying as far as possible from Ifahnal.

   The Bedohl appeared. It was as tall as Kush. Dressed with dark-yellow cotton, his head was covered with a hood, and his face was dissimulated behind glasses and a gas mask. At first glance, he appeared to not be able to fight and vanquish their enemies.

   “Is that…?”

   “It is,” Alb replied.

   The old man had climbed the stairs behind his creation.

   “It's not perfect yet, but...”

   Contrary to what his words were suggesting, Alb was radiating proud. Of the corner of his eye, Valm saw Ifahnal slipping away, a smile on his face. The Guard decided to focus on the false Bedohl. He would have a little discussion with the summoner later.

   “It doesn't seem really robust. Can it fight?”

   Valm brandished his sabre, and the Bedohl cringed.

   “Do you understand what I'm saying?”

   The machine nodded slowly.

   “In accordance with the specifications,” Alb précised, who was sticking out his chest.

   “In this case, unsheathe!” Valm ordered.

   The creature brought out a whip and twirled it around. The end of the string was drawing a confused outline. The Bedohl was not able to do battle. Valm supposed that the little verbal dispute which occurred this morning had incited him to unveil his work before its completion.

   He does not understand, the Guard thought with bitterness. We do not want it to obey us for the pleasure to see it give in. We need an effective weapon.

   “All of this is absurd,” he declared.

   With one blow of his sabre, he cut off the hand which was holding the whip. Blood gushed from the maimed member.

   Alb grasped the Bedohl by the elbow and pulled it.

   “I'm bringing it back to the workshop,” he apologized. “The final model will use a firearm. Chains and whips are problematic; you need to deal with the space around you in order to use them.”

   “He'll never reach the required level of precision to aim correctly. I'd prefer that it use throwing weapons. As for blood, is it compulsory?”

   A scarlet puddle had formed on the ground.

   “A ruse, to deceive the enemy. Yourself wondered if it was alive, right?”

   “How many units can you produce?”

   “Fifty units in the three next days. Maybe more.”

   Valm was pleasantly surprised by the answer.

   “We haven't hung around at the workshop,” Alb added with a provocative tone.
                                 
   He seemed offended.

   “Call them ‘worker Bedohls’. And remove the blood, or change its colour. Else the enemy won't be the only one deceived. I don't want ours to think that a comrade is hurt and take unnecessary risks. From faraway, they must look humans. Closely, the illusion is superfluous.”

   Valm was realizing that the ultimate soldier whom he hoped for so much was just a dream. For the moment, he would be bound to content himself with a pseudo Bedohl, with too realistic blood.

   “Tell us what is happening outside, Valm,” Kush spoke. “Is the enemy here?”

   “I think that's the case. But Sloan and his men will seek and destroy it. To do justice to his brother, he'll do his name the honour.”

   Sloan was the god of vengeance.

   “Then, are we safe?”

   “For the time being, yes. I would prefer that you hide in an individual refuge. Send word to Ifahnal... No, I'm going to tell him that myself.”

   They climbed the stairs in an embarrassed silence to the inner gate number zero and the living area.

   “Has something happened with Ifahnal?” Valm asked the young woman.

   “Yes, but nothing which could bother you. I will settle the problem with him. I wonder about how to react after having lost so many summoners... The best would be to send to us people to replace them, but do vous think that it will happen?”

   A ship must come to resupply them seven days later. But even if it transported personnel to ensure its safety, Valm did not think that they would agree to stay on the island.  After all, their line management, already aware of their situation, had not announced anything.

   “Reinforcements? I don't think so. According to the rumour, more and more people hide their summoner gift.”

   “They will go to hell,” she declared lightly.

   He understood that she wanted to change the subject.

   “Say, Valm, what would happen if someone sent to us a new female Summoner? Gentle, sensual, with a beautiful bosom..."

        "She wouldn't fail to find voluntaries to become her Aeon Cores.”

   “Men are so simple!” Kush answered with a theatrical sigh.

   Kush was the goddess of abundance. With her slender figure, the woman who had taken her name on was, just like Ifahnal and his personal aesthetic, often victim of mockeries.

   “You're right,” Valm answered. “And thanks to that, you'll remain mine.”

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